How did Steven Tyler end up on ‘American Idol,’ anyway?

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If you’ve ever found yourself wondering exactly how a veteran rock ‘n’ roll bad boy such as Steven Tyler found his way to the judging table at a squeaky-clean family show like ‘American Idol’ (his own bleep-inducing comments notwithstanding), Tyler has at last offered an explanation.

There’d been a lot of friction with his Aerosmith bandmates, and Tyler was working to get clean and sober -– again -– after his most recent struggle with addiction, this one to prescription painkillers.

‘The week before I went to Betty Ford in December of ’09, I was so angry with it all I got a new manager. I said to him, ‘Get me a new job. I don’t care what it is,’' Tyler, who is promoting his new book, ‘Does the Noise In My Head Bother You?’ (due out Tuesday; see excerpt here), recalled in an interview with Matt Lauer that aired on NBC’s ‘Dateline’ Sunday night.

But when outgoing ‘Idol’ judge and Tyler pal Kara DioGuardi suggested that he become a judge on the wildly popular talent show, Tyler wasn’t immediately convinced it would be the right move. ‘I got to tell you, I never watched the show because I didn’t believe they should become in 16 weeks an American idol, until I thought, well, what if maybe I pick ‘em?’ Tyler tells Lauer, with trademark candor.


As Tyler might have expected, the move did tick off his Aerosmith bandmates: Lead guitarist Joe Perry said he didn’t want the band’s name associated with the show.

Tyler says he understands why so many people, like Perry, might have been reluctant to accept him in his new role, which calls on his basic capacity for compassion and humanity –- his ability to be ‘open and present,’ as he puts it -- rather than the wild, rock-star persona for which he has long been famous.

Yet, Lauer points out, it is Tyler’s warmth for which he is now becoming known. The man who brought the world ‘Dream On’ and ‘Walk This Way’ says the people who have known him personally have always known the kinder, gentler side of him, but that it was ‘the general public that think I’m that ‘Demon of Screamin’ that don’t know about the size of my heart. But I never had a chance to speak it and be it, but now I get a chance to do that. I get a chance to do that. And I hope that nice is the new black.’

As for those wacky exclamations -– a.k.a. ‘Tylerisms’ -- that ‘American Idol’ watchers have come to anticipate in every show, Tyler doesn’t think we should be surprised. ‘I’m a songwriter, duh,’ he says. ‘I’m a wordsmith.’

Tyler, who in the interview also discusses his struggles with addiction, his band and the work he did to reclaim his relationships with his children, says he’s pleased with this new chapter of his career. In addition to ‘Idol’ and his memoir, he’s even got a new solo single coming out, called, appropriately enough, '(It) Feels So Good.’ ‘See, sober, I can do anything,’ he says, ‘and now I’m happy again, and life’s good.’

Oh, by the way, it turns out it’s not only his new role on ‘Idol’ that Tyler’s embraced. Departing ‘American Idol’ contestant Casey Abrams, who distributed kisses to Tyler and his fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson after he was voted off last week, told reporters Friday that Tyler was a better kisser than Lopez. ‘J.Lo just let me kiss her, but Steven Tyler kissed me back,’ Abrams quipped.

To use one of Tyler’s favorite words: Beautiful!

(MJ’s Big Blog has more video from the interview here.)

Full Show Tracker coverage of ‘American Idol’

-- Amy Reiter